Early human history has always been a source of fascination to me. Who wouldn’t be curious about the origins of humanity and our evolution? It’s one of the grandest questions of the thinking mind, wondering about our long journey along the road of evolution and wanting to understand more about our distant ancestors. While I make no comparisons to myself and great thinkers, I’ve always tried to follow along with various bits of anthropology and the science of human evolution. I want to be as scientifically literate as a layman can be. I have a long way to go, but it’s an interesting journey, if nothing else.
Then I saw this article and was utterly enthralled. I have never been a person to feel threatened by the idea that Neanderthals could teach things to Homo sapiens, or that the two likely interbred, or that they were here first. I like the idea that Neanderthals and H.sapiens could have lived side by side and maybe taught each other things. But the fact that these paintings predate ones done by H.sapiens is awesome. I love the possibility that maybe – just maybe – H.sapiens learned to symbolically and creatively express ourselves because we were taught to do so by our Neanderthal cousins. I don’t know that that could ever be proved – at least not without a lot more cave paintings – but it is a really interesting thought that we learned art from Neanderthals. Maybe someone will write a book about it.
Related to this article, of course, is the fact that the first discovery of an Australopithecus afarensis skeleton happened on this day in 1974. Happy 48th birthday, Lucy, plus or minus 3.2 million years!
So, because it’s what I do, I gathered a list of books, both nonfiction and fiction, about early humans. What others would you add to the list?
- From Lucy to Language by Donald C. Johanson and Blake Edgar
- Sapiens by Noah Yuval Harari
- The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
- Lone Survivors by Chris Stringer
- The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron
- How to Think Like a Neanderthal by Thomas Wynn and Frederick L. Coolidge
- The First Human by Ann Gibbons
- The Fossil Chronicles by Dean Falk
- Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson
- Seven Skeletons by Lydia Pine
- The World Before Us by Tom Higham